Saturday, February 4, 2023

Election 2021: Matt Dunn is running for Carolina Beach Town Council

Matt Dunn is running for Carolina Beach Town Council, with election day approaching Tuesday, Nov. 2. (Port City Daily/Courtesy photo)

CAROLINA BEACH –– Matt Dunn is vying for one of the open seats on the Carolina Beach Town Council.

Port City Daily has sent a questionnaire to every candidate running in municipal elections, which are nonpartisan, and has dropped its paywall on the profiles to help voters make informed decisions ahead of the 2021 election year. (Though, your support of local, independent journalism is appreciated through a monthly subscription. Also, consider signing up for Port City Daily’s free newsletter, Wilmington Wire, to get the headlines delivered to your inbox every morning.)

As a reminder, the early voting period begins Oct. 14, with the registration deadline on Oct. 8. Voters may partake in same-day registration throughout the two-week early voting period, which ends Oct. 30 (check if your registration is active at your current address).

Election Day is Nov. 2.

Dunn’s stances on local issues are discussed below. Port City Daily has included all responses in full, and only edited responses for grammatical and spelling errors.

READ MORE: Catch up on all elections coverage

Matt Dunn — Republican

  • Education:
    • UNCW Class of 1997, Go Hawks!
  • Job title: Full-time volunteer
  • Experience: Community Leader through organizing youth baseball in Carolina Beach. Carolina Beach resident since 2005. Background includes sales, market development and a real estate license for 17 years.
  • Family: Married 17 years and two boys (9 & 12)

Port City Daily (PCD): What are your top three priorities, if elected?
Matt Dunn (MD): Communication is key to all three.

Town staff is asking each standing committee to produce a mission statement and a set of goals. How can this be possible when committees are in place to support the mission of council, but council itself does not have a mission statement, vision and a clear set of goals? Therefore, each new council should develop a mission statement complete with goals to better align their priorities with staff and committees. This statement should be published and communicated to the public on the town’s website and kept up to date on a monthly basis complete with a joint statement from all council members

We must reconnect our public service institutions. Many people have taken this for granted over the years, but my connection to youth sports, Carolina Beach Elementary and families with young children have given me the perspective to observe a shift in the town’s priorities away from the school. The school and town have had no relationship at the executive leadership level since at least before Hurricane Florence. The town manager and police chief should be on a first name basis with the principal. They need to physically go to the school, get a tour, ask what they can do to support the school, students & teachers and then make it happen. Education programming through the town should be a normal part of the relationship between the two. For instance, ongoing bike safety programs for kids and parents would be beneficial with the increased vehicle traffic in Carolina Beach. There are 415 kids at CBES. The school is an important part of our community

Residents deserve an update on the status of infrastructure projects. Common challenges everyone in Carolina Beach is facing include the need for the town to complete planned infrastructure projects, like water, sewer, storm water, lake dredging, marina bulkheads, and roads. I would begin to tackle these challenges by communicating to the public where we stand with each project, so we can reset expectations for residents, businesses and all other stakeholders. It’s the town’s responsibility to communicate with residents and visitors, telling them what is going on with our projects and to keep the project locations looking maintained, even when under construction. The info on the town website is outdated.

PCD: Stormwater flooding and runoff present a persistent concern for the island. Is enough being done to address these issues? Why or why not?
MD: More needs to be done.

The lake dredge project needs to wrap up to help mitigate area flooding and to improve the overall vibe of the lake. Staff works hard to maintain the stormwater system when properly directed, but council and staff need to work on a rigorous maintenance plan that can be made consistent from year to year. That plan should include a level of follow up and property owner education that appear to have been missing over these recent years of rapid growth. Also, there are several stormwater projects that have just recently been funded with money made available to Carolina Beach through the American Rescue Plan. Some of the projects were put off during 2020 due to COVID.

A town council-appointed committee assessed properties along the canal where tidal flooding tends to occur. Two of the nine properties identified as being responsible for the flooding are owned by the town. Taking the lead on the mitigation of the issue, the town is currently looking into the design of bulkheads and CAMA permitting. There is a need for a rigorous clean-out and maintenance program for stormwater catch basins and conveyance pipes in the area as sand build-up causes tidal waters to back up into the streets. Tidal waters can possibly be prevented from backing up into the outfall pipes by adding functional back-flow valves at the outfall side of the drainage pipe. It is also imperative to communicate with area property owners to develop a mutually beneficial plan. 

Regarding the “sunny day” flooding that occurs on Canal Drive, I believe we can do much more. For some reason, the Canal Drive Flood Committee was disbanded after finding only a partial solution to tidal flooding. Bring it back as an ad hoc committee, including former members, as well as opening it up to new people with fresh ideas. We have citizens living with road conditions along Canal Drive that are poor at best. These wonderful citizens are willing to help by communicating the various types of flooding they are witnessing in real time, as well as possible solutions. Troubleshooting efforts should be taken seriously and not written off simply because the road is in a low-lying area. Staff needs to reach out to other coastal communities with similar issues, the state and any organization that could provide information and assistance towards mitigating the problem. Just like with the lake dredge project, we need an all hands-on deck approach with the willingness to look outside town hall at times to help solve the problems. 

PCD: How will you influence the future of land use and development at Carolina Beach? As an elected official, what would be your guiding principles when it comes to deliberating on planning and zoning decisions?
MD: Stakeholders and residents, myself included, provided input to shape the 2020 CAMA Land Use Plan for Carolina Beach. It’s important to understand that residents take time to provide this input to help guide decisions. Once adopted, I believe it’s important for our leaders to stick with zoning language as it pertains to the vision residents and business owners created during the process. While it’s standard practice to review and update the Land Use Plan every five-to-10 years, I don’t believe we should make changes to it too soon.

PCD: What development practices, that you might have recently seen on the beach, do you think should be discouraged and encouraged?
MD: Again, let’s stick to the language in the Land Use Plan to guide development. I do not advocate for conditional zoning that would disrupt the harmony of any given area. Text amendments in zoning language can be minimal, but may cause major unintended consequences if not carefully thought through by all stakeholders.

PCD: Council is slated to review a new tree ordinance soon. How far should the ordinance go? What specific provisions do you want to see included?
MD: Something like developing a new tree ordinance should take time and careful thought. The goal of the ordinance should be defined by stakeholders including input from property owners, builders and arborists. Property rights are important to maintain throughout the process, so that’s why it’s necessary to balance the rights of property owners with the goal of any tree ordinance.

PCD: Are you comfortable with the town’s parking policy and setup? What, if anything, should change?
MD: No. Parking needs to be addressed by once again bringing in stakeholders to solve. Council needs to facilitate meetings with town staff, parking professionals, business owners, property owners and residents to resolve. This is something else that should not be rushed. We have a parking convenience problem and a parking revenue problem. We have to find a way to balance both.

PCD: Freeman Park has been a source of legal controversy and natural erosion. Do you have any stance on the future of this access point as it pertains to the town’s control and maintenance of it?
MD: There is a lot of history, both good and bad regarding Freeman Park. I think the ongoing lawsuit surrounding the use of Freeman Park makes finding out pertinent information a little difficult. However, until that is resolved, the town should continue to patrol and maintain the area. That takes financial resources. Access to the park should continue to be allowed through paid annual and daily passes, unless information comes to light that might state otherwise. Erosion may continue to limit the capacity.

PCD: Are you comfortable with the current short-term rental ordinance and would you like to see these properties regulated further?
MD: We live at the beach. Short-term rental properties are not a new concept. There are several really good rental property businesses in Carolina Beach, online businesses and individual property owners that provide a service that is needed to bring and house vacationers and visitors to Carolina Beach. There aren’t enough hotel rooms to accommodate demand during peak tourist months.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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